Showing posts with label driving. Show all posts
Showing posts with label driving. Show all posts

13 December 2013

7. - 13 Dec.: Schotia Game reserve to Knysna, via Elephant Back Ride Safari

Get up at the crack of dawn (well almost, it must have been 6:30am) for a quick (wood fire heated) shower in the open, an instant coffee and an early morning walking safari in the hills around our tents. Justin is there as promised and so is the Washington couple we met yesterday.

We start slowly and enjoy the cool early morning air but no animals in sight. The Washington lady jogs around and gets way ahead of the rest of us but suddenly grinds to a halt when in sight of the two huge mammals. Rhinos! Two big white rhinos, buth sadly dehorned by poachers in May 2013.



We can get very close. Maybe a bit too close when Justin tells me to freeze as I drop to the ground to photograph from down up and one rhino puts its big lips on the ground within two meters from the tip of my lens. Great pictures though!

After breakfast we drive to Lenmore, a restaurant not far and our meeting point with Walter, from elephant back ride safari. Yan insisted on doing this and while I was initially a bit reluctant as we have a lot of driving today and lots to see on the way, she was right as this turned out to be a unique experience.

From Lenmore it is a long drive, over one hour on a highway then 45 minutes of a dirt road with potholes the size of bomb craters. We are pretty shattered when we get to the reserve but thrilled with anticipation.



Walter tells us he used to work here but then changed jobs to driver because too remote wants to be with family. Proudly show his name and number still on gate. He now takes cigarettes and other stuff to the staff at the camp who don't see civilization for weeks on end.

There are three elephants, and they always go together even if there are no clients. We rent two elephants and the third just follows... We start a bit late: while the elephants are tamed, they are free to roam around and to gather them for the tourist ride is not always a five minute affair.

It's a lot of fun to ride them, and it is as natural as it gets: no saddles or seats, just our bums on their bare back. Walter smiles when we say we'd like to ride longer than the standard half an hour: "You'll bruise your behind raw!" After 45 minutes we realize he was right, but it was worth it!

At the end of our ride we get a tasty lunch by a small lake, and then all start our way back over the bomb craters to Lenmore and our car.

 Time to drive to Knysna, which we reach after an easy five hour drive on the N2, the long coastal road that runs along South Africa's maritime regions.

Dinner is at the Golf club with Mike, a German friend of mine who used to be my neighbor in Belgium. Rather an ex German I should say: he moved to Italy from his native country when he was very young, married Carla, a bright and beautiful Italian lady he met at work, and lived and worked around the world ever since. Ten years ago he retired and they decided to abolish Fall and Winter from their vocabulary: May to October in Italy, and November to April in South Africa, where of course the seasons are inverted. Carla sadly passed away a few years ago but Mike keeps his seasonal hybernation routine.

There is a birthday party going on and the main dining room is taken. Crowds of all-white friends singing South Africa's national anthem. I am especially struck by their singing the rifst lines in Xhosa: Nkosi sikelele Afrika... A song full of meaning, especially when sung by whites. The new South Africa.

No fear: we get table in the main hall, between the kitchen and the bar. Delicions seafood, nice full bodied Chardonnay from the Cape (beer for Mike) and a very forgiving check. The strong Euro buys a pretty good time in South Africa this year.

06 December 2013

Itinerary of trip to South Africa - December 2013 / January 2014








Itinerary - South Africa

December 2013 – January 2014

(click on a date or a daily itinerary to link to related post)
Day
Dec.
Daily itinerary
Night
Km
1
7
P.E.
25
2
8
Lalibela
90
3
9
Lalibela
50
4
10
Lalibela
50
5
11
Schotia
60
6
12
Schotia
40
7
13
Knysna
275
8
14
Knysna
10
9
15
Knysna
10
10
16
Knysna
10
11
17
Swellendam
200
12
18
Swellendam
50
13
19
Cape Town
160
14
20
Cape Town
60
15
21
Franschhoek
75
16
22
Franschhoek
0
17
23
Franschhoek
50
18
24
Franschhoek
60
19
25
Johannesburg
75
20
26
Johannesburg
80
21
27
Mabhoko
280
22
28
Mabhoko
0
23
29
Kruger
450
24
30
Kruger
60
25
31
S. Lucia
650

Jan.



26
1
S. Lucia
0
27
2
P.E.
250
28
3
Jeffrey Bay
80
29
4
Mossel Bay
325
30
5
Mossel Bay
40
31
6
Hermanus
320
32
7
Cape Town
175
33
8
Cape Town
150
34
9
Cape Town
40
35
10
airplane
25


TOTAL
KM
4275



27 August 2010

16° g - 27 AGO: Manali – Chandigarh, km 350

Partiamo alle 8, Thakur ci affida a due Toyota Innova fiammanti, con due autisti impeccabili e un po' formali e taciturni, ma comunque bravi nel loro mestiere. Scendiamo nella valle di Kullu. Verdissima, meleti e fabbriche di scialli. Ci fermiamo al mercato di Manali, frutta, verdura di più... coloratissimo e puzzonentissimo, ma ovviamente anche molto fotogenico!

16 August 2007

12° g - 16 AGO: Trasferimento a Neiafu, karting, shopping

Decidiamo di lasciare Mala island un giorno prima, il posto è carino ma lui è veramente strano, difficile da sopportare e le sistemazioni sono senza charme, anonime, un po’ deprimenti. Il proprietario storce la bocca ma alla fine acconsente a non farci pagare penalità. Il fatto è che ci siamo stufati delle sue scempiaggini ed il servizio lascia molto a desiderare, peccato perché il posto meriterebbe di essere curato di più.

17 August 2006

Road safety signs in Ladakh and Zanskar

These are my top three favorites:

1st prize
LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR
BUT NOT WHILE YOU ARE DRIVING

2nd prize
A CAT HAS NINE LIVES YOU HAVE ONLY ONE

3rd prize
GOD MADE LADAKH, WE CONNECT IT TO THE REST OF THE WORLD (BORDER ROAD ORGANIZATION)

02 December 2005

Book Review: Adventure Capitalist, by Jim Rogers, *****

Jim and wife Paige at the end of their tour in 2002.
Synopsis

The bestselling author of Investment Biker is back from the ultimate road trip: a three–year drive around the world that would ultimately set the Guinness record for the longest continuous car journey. In Adventure Capitalist, legendary investor Jim Rogers, dubbed "the Indiana Jones of finance" by Time magazine, proves that the best way to profit from the global situation is to see the world mile by mile. "While I have never patronized a prostitute," he writes, "I know that one can learn more about a country from speaking to the madam of a brothel or a black marketeer than from meeting a foreign minister."

01 September 2005

14° g - 1 Sett: Arusha – Dar es Salaam – Zanzibar

Partenza prima dell’alba, alle 6. Il bus ci viene a prendere in Hotel, che è sulla strada. Il mezzo è ottimo, nuovo e pulito. L’autista, come tutti qui, corre come un forsennato, facciamo il pelo a passanti e ciclisti, per non parlare degli animali. Con primo chiarore dell’alba passiamo accanto al Kilimangiaro, che ci appare per un attimo in tutta la sua maestosità. Sul mezzo ci sono, oltre ovviamente a molti turisti, anche parecchi tanzaniani di classe media, che si possono permettere quello che qui è considerato un mezzo di lusso: costo 8000 scellini.

26 June 2005

14° g - 26 GIU: Tso Moriri – Debring (cambio automezzi) – Sarchu 180 KM ORE 7

Lungo trasferimento attraverso le montagne verso il Himachal Pradesh. A Debring incontriamo il minibus mandatoci da Delhi e lasciamo i nostri due autisti con le Toyota. Spazi enormi, infiniti, terra brulla, quasi desertica. Silenzio interrotto solo dai diesel delle jeep.

Proseguiamo fino al campeggio attrezzato di Sarchu, dove passiamo la notte. Un posto piacevole in una verde vallata, apprezzo particolarmente i colori crepuscolari dell’ora blu. Dormiamo al campeggio “Sarchu Height Adventure India Camp” ;600 Rps cena un po’ scarsa.

23 June 2005

11° g - 23 Giugno: Leh – Valle di NUBRA , Diskit, Hunder 150 KM ORE 5

Partenza da Leh per il passo di Khardung-la, forse il più alto passo carrozzabile del mondo a oltre 5600mlsm. Attenzione alla programmazione di questo trasferimento, perché la strada non è aperta tutti i giorni, o lo è ma a sensi alternati (giorni pari o dispari, mattina/pomeriggio) e non sempre prevedibili, in quanto decidono anche da un giorno all’altro in base alla situazione neve.

23 August 2003

17° g - 23 AGO: Kerman – Shiraz

Lunghissimo trasferimento in bus attraverso paesaggi desertici, desolati ma a tratti affascinanti. Ci fermiamo per strada a comprare fichi secchi e freschi.

Come albergo stiamo allo Shiraz Eram, ottimo, centrale, 35 USD la doppia, TLF, ottima colazione compresa. A cena in uno dei tanti lungo la strada Chamran, affollata dai locali, sulle colline sovrastanti la città verso nord - ovest. Piacevole ed interessante, si mangia tra migliaia di iraniani che fanno il picnic sulle aiuole, e ci sono spesso mercatini e mostre lungo la strada.

30 December 2002

13° g - 30 DIC: da Sanchi a Bhopal a Mandu

Al mattino passaggio rapido per Bhopal, dove visitiamo l'importante moschea. Ci sono tantissimi bambini seduti per terra, a testa bassa, tutti intenti a memorizzare ill Corano. In un angolo un maestro interroga uno scolaro, che però non si ricorda i versi a memoria tanto bene, lui lo aiuta un po' poi lo manda via a studiare ancora.

24 August 2002

17. - 24 AUG: Muang Khua to Udom Xai

Departure after the usual banana pancakes for breakfasts, I am getting a bit tired of them but heck... It is not without some apprehension that we started our drive from Muang Khua toward the Oudomxai province. We had been warned of landslides, uncertain how long it would take or even whether we would make it at all. We had also been assured that work was in progress to clear the roads, but somehow that did not quite sound as reassuring as we would have wished. So we are off, no choice now...

06 August 1999

7. - 6 AUG: Masvingo to Bulawayo

Depart for Bulawayo and the Matopos - approximately 3.5 hours drive.
Big Cave Camp -

04 August 1999

5. - 4 AUG: Harare to Masvingo (Great Zimbabwe)

Hertz Rent-a-car delivers our car at Imba Matombo at 08h30. We load all our stuff, get easy directions from the driver and head South for an easy drive to Masvingo. This is a 3 hour drive on an almost entirely straight road.

The condition of the tarmac is good, and after a short while I get used to driving on the left-hand side of the road.


We check in at the Lodge of The Ancient City again on a Half Board basis. Again a luxury hotel with thatched roofs that blends in perfectly with the local environment.

Rest of the day at leisure, we take a short walk and spend a pleasant evening at the lodge, comforted by a great meal of game and South African wines.

23 June 1980

Driving back through Yugoslavia and on to Italy

Left Balaton lake at 10.00am. It would have been nice to spend more time here, after four intense months, and relax a bit, take in the cool atmosphere and sip Hungarian wine, by far the best that is coming from the brotherhood of socialist countries. (Georgians might disagree, and I must admit I don't know Georgian wine much.) Much better than the Crimean "champagne" we had in the USSR.

The road is just OK and we proceed slowly toward Yugoslavia. No problem with this border. Two socialist countries, in theory ideological siblings. In practice, Yugoslavia has long been pursuing its own version of socialism, quite open to the West and relatively more relaxed at home.

Surprisingly, the roads in Yugoslavia are worse than in Hungary or Poland. At least the ones we drive on today. Once we reach Nova Gorica, the Yugoslav half of Gorizia, I pull into a service station to fill up Giallina. Gasoline is much cheaper here that in Italy. The man at the pump speaks Italian and says he only agrees to sell us fuel because he sees Giallina has a Roman plate. He refuses to sell to Italians from Trieste and Gorizia, who just cross the border to take advantage of subsidized fuel. Border inhabitants of both Italy and Yugoslavia can go shopping in each other's country fairly easily, and while Yugoslavs go to Italy to buy what they can't find at home, Italians hop beyond the border to buy cheap subsidized staples, fuel first of all.

We reach Mestre at about 9:00pm and get a couple of rooms at the "Garibaldi" hotel. Then out for pizza. Nice to be back in Italy, I enjoy hearing Italian and soaking the warm air, though everything now seems soooo expensive! A pizza here is more expensive than a gourmet fine dining experience in Warsaw!

08 June 1980

Highway experiences and Novgorod churches

Departure in the morning direction Nogvorod. We'll miss Igor for the rest of our trip, he was fun company and quite informative. But then again who knows, maybe he was a KGB operative, haha, no I don't think so but it is not inconceivable. So few tourists these days, and three kids from NATO countries in a yellow Volkswagen? Very suspicious!

It's a long ride and the road is of mediocre quality at best. About 50km out of Moscow, there is some road work on the highway. Again, as we have seen before just after we entered the USSR, most, in fact, all workers are women. The workers who work that is. There is plenty of men road workers who just lie down by the roadside and look on.

Soviet female road workers and male onlookers.


Anyway, after witnessing some of the work of the unsmiling stocky Soviet ladies, we can see all vehicles ahead of us are re-routed to a secondary, much smaller, road. When we approach the deviation the man who is sending everyone for the detour flags us to go straight through and stay on the main highway. Such a privilege! Why? I imagine they don't want to show foreign capitalists poorly paved secondary roads that would make the country look bad. Not sure.

We then keep driving splendidly alone on this newly surfaced black highway. Almost alone that is, because at some point we are passed by a very official-looking convoy of black cars, led by two big Mercedes Benz sedans (the first we have seen in the USSR) with police markings. Usually the police have Ladas, this must be an important convoy but they are too fast for us to try and peek inside and maybe try to recognize a Politburo member or two. The only problem is that the tar is so fresh much of it gets thrown up by Giallina's tires and ends up sticking to her pristine yellow sides. It will take a lot of work to clean it up when we get around to it.

When we reach Novgorod we settle down in our assigned camping ground then head to town. Lots of small churches, I counted at least twenty, all next to each other in the same part of town. And they are ALL shut down "NA REMONT", for restoration. It's one of the first Russian words I've learned and I've read it so many times I am sure I'll never forget it. Can't get into any of them. Oh well.

06 June 1980

Moscow books, champagne and army belts

Brunch at the "Arbat" hotel, not bad, and only 4 Rb, about 1 USD. There isn't much choice but because this is a hotel frequented by many foreigners there is enough.

Next up is a visit to the "Dom Knigi, (website in Russian) the biggest book store in town. And an official one, with lots of propaganda and political books. I am not so interested in these, but I do buy some posters. The Soviets love political posters, many with uncontroversial historical overtones, like for example those on the victory in WW II. Or those of smiling papa Lenin with children. Lenin is the last, and almost the only, leader to be represented in posters. All subsequent leaders have been discredited by their respective successors, so there is no Stalin, no Khrushchev and no current leader either. Of course no foreign leader either: no Mao, no Castro. Well at least one can say there is no personality cult in the USSR today. Some posters are more general in their subject matter,  like for example those that deal with socialism as a force of peace in the world.
Andrew resting

We meet Igor and go to the "Kosmos" hotel for a drink of Soviet Champagne (8 rubles). It is made in Crimea, a bit on the sweet side. And they have no qualms to call it "Champagne" as the USSR, of course, does not abide by European rules on protected denominations. Over a glass of bubbly we talk about the upcoming Olympics, and Igor says he read on the Pravda (the official newspaper of the Communist Party, it means "Truth") that all western countries are coming with their flags, and the the US boycott is a failure. Sounds strange, the Herald Tribune reported Italy and the UK are going but without flags. France is going with its flag. West Germany who knows. We'll see. Perhaps there is still time for a solution so that all can go and compete and have a proper Olympics. I exchange five packs of American "Salem" cigarettes for a Soviet army belt that Igor conveniently happens to have in his pocket.

Comecon headquarters
Driving around the city, to get a feel of the atmosphere, is not especially rewarding: dull and boring. Several policemen make it more lively by stopping me as I drive around. There are some avenues with twelve lanes (!) and it is impossible to change lane fast enough to take a turn, especially at some huge roundabouts. So I change lane a bit too fast and they  inevitably stop me, ask for all my papers, give me a dirty look and let us go. The building of the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA, or Comecon) provides a rare example of modern architecture with an original twist.

In the evening we look for a restaurant to have dinner, but by 21:30 most are closed. We end up in a small and very forgettable eatery before heading back to the camping ground.

18 May 1980

Customs controls, newspapers and cars

FIAT 126p made in Poland in the 1970s and 80s
Witnessing some creative trade with Simona. You can buy very cheap (in black market dollars) good here, like fur. And an Italian lady won't let that opportunity pass. Marian knows someone who knows someone who works at the airport customs control. FOr USD 100 they are willing to close an eye on her departing luggage.

The way it works is that after check-in and passport control ALL luggage, including big suitcases that will go into the hold of the aircraft, are visually inspected by customs officials. They are looking for stuff that is cheap in Poland because it is coming from other socialist countries (mostly the USSR) at subsidized prices. Caviar is a prime example, but also furs, carpets, and gold. It is entirely up to the official to check. If she or he is willing to close an eye, the departing passenger can get away with anything.

In the afternoon I try to call my former roommate at Georgetown, Ben, to sort out where to leave my stuff. After a long wait at the post office, over an hour and a half, I have to give up, despite the fact I had booked time for an international call.

While killing time I try to buy a newspaper: foreign papers have wildly different prices: the CPSU's Pravda costs only 20 groszy (cents of zloty), practically nothing. The Italian Communist party's paper, l'Unità, costs 5 zloty and La Stampa costs 32 zloty, perhaps because it is owned by the Agnelli family of rich exploiters of the proletariat.

Yet it is the only Italian paper available, at least that I could find. perhaps because the FIAT auto company (also owned by the Agnellis) is a big investor in Poland, where many cars are produced for the domestic market and for export. Among them the 126 model. Polski FIAT produces cars in this country since 1932, it's a long history.

There are actually a lot of cars in Poland, at least in the big cities, it is much easier to get a hold of one, even if just a basic model, than in East Germany, where the wait is measured in decades.

In the evening dinner at Marian's, where I meet Nicola.


19 February 1980

Arrested in a Warsaw Pact military base. (This is not a joke.)

What happened on this day deserves special attention as it was one of the defining days of my life. It was not funny when it happened, though it made for countless hilarious conversation afterwards.

We left Vienna in the morning and crossed into Czechoslovakia with transit visa, with the goal of reaching Poland by the end of the day. We clear the border quickly, little more than ten minutes. Barbed wire as far as the eye can see.

Very few cars on the Czechslovak side, while many buses and trucks slows us down quite a bit. Almost all cars are withre FIAT 124 (Soviet made Lada) or Skoda. The road to Brno and beyond is dotted with hundreds of small monuments to Communism and red banners hailing socialism. One such banners reads: "Our union with Russia is a guarantee of peace". Small red stars are ubiquitous, even on lamp posts, street signs, everywhere.

The Iron Curtain at the border between Austria and Czechoslovakia


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